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Emil von SAUER (1862-1942)
Suite moderne (1899-1906?) [34’16]. Aus lichten Tagen (date unknown) [11’26]. Drei Konzertetüden (1910) [9’35]
Oleg Marshev (piano)
Rec. Mantzius-Garden, Birkerod, Denmark, February 2003. DDD

Oleg Marshev seems born to play music of this ilk. Emil von Sauer comes in at the end of the great Romantic composer-pianist tradition (he was a pupil of Liszt) – collectors may also wish to investigate Hyperion’s ‘The Romantic Piano Concerto, Volume 11’, which couples Sauer’s First Concerto with Scharwenka’s Fourth (Stephen Hough is accompanied by the CBSO under Lawrence Foster, CDA66790). Sauer himself left a fair number of 78rpm discs to posterity.

Danacord here present two first recordings – the Suite and the Galop de concert. Suite moderne, dedicated to Sgambati, is fairly typical Romantic fare, the initial ‘Prélude passioné’ exemplifying this perfectly, gestural in its essence (although a cynic may refer to clichés …). The only reservation comes with the recorded sound, which seems a little lacking in depth, a suspicion confirmed in the ensuing ‘Air lugubre’. Marshev’s evident belief in his charge sees the music through though, dragging one in after a while (at 9’57 duration it could so easily seem over-languorous). The third movement ‘Scherzo grotesque’ does not begin as such, rather easing into its malevolent cheekiness (and how Marshev seems to enjoy this!).

In his notes, Farhan Malik refers to the fourth movement Gavotte as ‘somewhat reminiscent of Glazunov’, although the connection does not seem overly pronounced to this reviewer. The finale is the most clearly Schumannesque movement.

Aus lichten Tagen is subtitled ‘Five Miniatures’. This is straight out of the salon. Marshev plays when appropriate in a light, throwaway style, yet displays superb tonal variety in the final ‘Capricietto’. His virtuosity is breathtaking in ‘Am Spinnraden’ (‘At the Spinning Wheel’, the fourth movement).

Sauer’s 29 Concert Etudes were recorded by Marshev earlier in this series. The Three Concert Etudes presented here are not in fact intended as a supplement to this - rather their character is truer to the essence of the ‘etude’. Marshev does his best to shape the first (a cripplingly difficult study in thirds). Similarly, his Etude-Caprice (No. 2) is full of laughter, and the final ‘Moto perpetuo in Octaves’ sparkles delightfully.

Finally, the Galop de Concert in E flat minor. This begins almost as a Lisztian parody – it is an effective encore piece, with its contrastive elements and Marshev in teasing mode around 5’38. But the piece is over-long at six and a half minutes.

A thoroughly enjoyable disc. Marshev’s flair and seemingly limitless technique sees the project through in high style.

Colin Clarke


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